Today people around the world are celebrating Earth Day by taking action and committing to protect our planet. It’s estimated that over a billion people in 192 countries will join together today in commemorating Earth Day 2016 through actions that include raising awareness about climate change and demanding climate action, beach cleanups and recycling initiatives, educating youth about living more sustainably, and by collaborating to create a more resilient and healthy planet. The Earth Day Network which convenes the Earth Day celebrations has set an ambitious goal of planting 7.8 billion trees around the world over the next four years, which equates to one tree planted for every person on Earth.
Today also marks another significant international milestone – world leaders will come together at the United Nations to sign the Paris Agreement on climate change which was negotiated in December last year. This Agreement represents commitments by countries to lower carbon emissions and jointly keep global warming this century below 2 degrees Celsius.
“More carbon in the atmosphere equals more poverty. We cannot deliver sustainable development without tackling climate change, and we cannot tackle climate change without addressing the root causes of poverty, inequality and unsustainable development patterns,” said Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
After countries sign the Agreement, the final step required for it to come into force, is the ratification and adoption of the Agreement at national level by at least 55 countries. Already 189 countries have submitted their plans to transition toward s low carbon, climate-resilient future in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs.
As climate change affects health, poverty, food security, water security, biodiversity and ecosystem services and many other aspects of our lives – the 22nd of April 2016 is a critical and momentous day in history. We can all help to support leaders to sign, ratify and accelerate implementation of bold climate action by raising awareness and our voices. Many of us are also in the position to transform our lifestyles to be more sustainable and thereby help lower emissions and enhance life on our planet. Together, we can change the world!